Dozens of the province’s civil society activists gathered in Cape Town recently to diagnose the well-being of the province’s health system.
Organised by the Black Sash in partnership with the University of Cape Town’s Health Economics Unit and Health-e News Service, the provincial health workshops will travel to all provinces in South Africa culminating in a report which will be shared with Government once public consultations are held on National Health Insurance (NHI).
Western Cape participants identified the five major problems that interfered with their ability to receive quality care. These included a poor district health system with little preventative care, unfunded home-based carers for the ill, an under-prioritised health budget, pervasive crime, and problems with public and private health insurance.
The Western Cape, on average, is in better shape than the rest of the country, with for example the highest incidence of piped water and electricity and the lowest incidences of infant and child mortality. But the health system still needs work, participants said.
There are many policies and laws, including the International Declaration of Human Rights, to ensure all South Africans receive appropriate medical care, but many of these laws don’t match reality.
It’s hard to receive care if your nearest public hospital is hundreds of kilometers away, noted some rural residents who said they spend approximately R800 to travel to the doctor.
Another participant said a nurse and doctor were held up at gunpoint while trying to start a community clinic near Somerset West.
Others noted that some doctors and nurses will no longer actually physically touch patients while examining them and instead simply ask patients questions for a diagnosis.
Despite laws and policies, the participants also noted hostile or indifferent attitudes of doctors and nurses toward patients, understaffed hospitals, failing medical infrastructure, and poor communication practices regarding health care.